I'm having a day off, thanks to a woman who runs an organic farm near Brechfa - she's provided me with a room, a double bed and a whole day in her house to do with as I please. I'm mostly watching tv and eating crisps, mixed in with little naps. It's a day to rub my feet, stretch luxuriously and other than that, move around as little as possible.
I had a rough count up today and I've walked 1200 miles in the last five months - that's the Offa's Dyke Path, the Glyndwr's Way, the rivers Severn, Conwy and Dee and about half of the Cistercian Way.
How am I? Tired. It's been a bit of a trudge the last couple of weeks - the novelty of beautiful Wales has worn off a bit and I'm no longer amazed each time I reach the top of a hill. Rolling farmland and wind turbines? Seen it, many times over. It's not that I'm miserable; it's just become a mundanity - walking, it's what I do, for hours, every day. I don't love it, I don't hate it.
My body, most of it, is bearing up pretty well. No pain in my neck, shoulders or back. My legs could go on for miles and miles, it's just my feet are letting me down. I'm in a lot of pain in my feet every day, the tendons and ligaments are strained. I hobble every evening and morning before I get into my stride and the rest of my muscles begin working properly. I'm even starting to get pains in my legs, ankles and feet at night, shooting pains in the bones and joints, my legs twitch and I have to take painkillers to sleep.
At the moment I think the main foot problem is my recent change of shoes. Every small thing that I do to my feet, new shoes, different insoles, taping them up, even a different pair of socks affects them in a new way and takes time, and days of new pain to adjust to it. It's as if I'm experimenting to try and get to where my feet don't hurt but every thing I do might make the pain much much worse.
I changed my shoes two weeks ago, for exactly the same style I've been wearing for the last 800 miles but half a size smaller - we're talking a men's size 7.5 instead of an 8, normally I wear a women's size 6. In the previous pair of shoes I was wearing I had a blue foam wedge under the left heel and a disintegrating pair of gel insoles. They all went with the old pair of shoes, I wore the new ones with first no insoles, then a pair of foam ones and then, after I realised that the pain in my feet wsa becoming severe and the tendon pain I already experience in my right foot was spreading to the left, a pair of gel insoles with an extra gel wedge under my left heel. Fine, foot pain is diminished (but still very present) but now my shoes feel too small with all the layers of insoles in there. Should I have gone for the bigger shoes I was used to? Even though they had a good inch extra at the end of the shoe? And what do I do now? Do I change again? More money on shoes and more stress trying to find an address I can have the shoes posted to at a place I can pick them up while I'm continuing to walk. It's very hard doing this by myself - I've had to rely on the shops I find enroute as to what quality of insoles I can buy. The crap foam ones were in a fishing shop in Caerphilly, the better gel ones were an outdoor shop in Tenby. I wish there was a magic support fairy I could just turn to at the end of the day and have them fix all my problems for me - I'll buy maps for you Ursula, foot rub?
I recently read the story of Spud and Tess; the woman who walked around the UK about 20 years ago. She managed 20 miles a day and raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity but the fact she had a campervan following her and a walk committee of 20 people helping her organise just makes me gnash my teeth!
I think I can carry on and finish, but it hurts and I don't know how I can make it hurt less.
I'm also looking ahead to Autumn and Winter walking. I was originally set to finish this walk in October. I could have done that if I walked 19 miles a day - every day. I seriously planned this walk by making a list of all the paths I wanted to walk and then dividing that by the number of days between hospital appointments and then nodding. Yes I can walk 19 miles a day, simple as that. Yeah right. What was I thinking?
So, what do I do? What's more important to me, the timescale or the distance? The distance. So I keep walking.
But rain is coming, Autumn is coming, Winter is coming. I need to plan ahead for rain and cold temperatures. I've had a wonderful summer, the kind where I can just put down my tarpaulin and sleeping bag and sleep under the stars. I don't even own a tent! This needs to change. I survived a night of heavy rain the other night in my basher - an army style tarpaulin shelter but I woke up in the morning and found a slug in my hair. Things need to change - that can only happen once.
In summary, I'm ok, I'm tired, I'm in pain but of course this was going to happen eventually. I can't waltz through this, it had to get hard some time and now it is, the trick is how I deal with it and keep going.